How to Apply for SNAP in Illinois

This information is current as of March 24, 2022.

Are you a low-income person living in or moving to Illinois? If so, you may qualify for food assistance from the Illinois Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program.

How to Apply for SNAP in Illinois
Follow these steps to apply for SNAP or food stamps in the state of Illinois.

SNAP provides a monthly benefit to millions of Americans every month. If you’re wondering how to apply for SNAP in Illinois, this article will go through how to:

  • Learn about IL SNAP benefits
  • Understand IL SNAP requirements
  • Find out if you’re eligible
  • Complete your application
  • Use your Electronic Transfer Benefit (EBT) card

Let’s get to it!

Steps to Apply for SNAP in Illinois

Applying for SNAP may seem intimidating, but it can easily be broken down into a few simple steps.

First, we’ll identify what SNAP benefits are in Illinois and how they can help low-income families and individuals.

Next, we’ll get into the basic requirements of SNAP in the state, followed by how to find out if you are eligible.

Fourth, we’ll walk through the application process, including how you can get assistance filling out your application.

Finally, we’ll dive into how and where you can use your EBT card to take full advantage of your SNAP benefits in Illinois.

1.    Learn About SNAP Benefits in IL

SNAP is a federal nutritional assistance program individually run by each state. Benefits are granted to low-income individuals, families, seniors, and those who are disabled.

“Benefits” for SNAP are given via an EBT card, similar to a debit card. This card is called an Illinois Link Card in Illinois, and it is reloaded every month. It can be used at specific stores to purchase different food items.

In Illinois, the SNAP program is overseen by the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS). Your local DHS office will review your SNAP application and can help answer any questions you have during the application process. You can find your DHS office through the DHS Office Locator online.

Under “Office Type,” select “Family Community Resource Center.” Then, choose your county and click “Find Offices.” You may also look through the Family Community Resource Center directory.

How SNAP Benefits Are Decided

Benefits for SNAP in IL are determined by how many people are in your household, or “SNAP Unit,” and the household income. When applying, you will list everyone you live with and with whom you share meals.

The caseworker will analyze your gross income and subtract deductions like rent, utilities, and other expenses. The leftover amount is assumed to be your net income, and this is how your benefit amount is decided.

Depending on your household, you may receive any amount up to the following limits on your EBT card monthly.

Number of People in HouseholdMaximum Monthly Benefit
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SNAP and EBT benefit amounts are also based on the number of people in your household.

2.    Understand SNAP Requirements in Illinois

SNAP benefits are offered depending on how many people are in your household and how much income you receive altogether.

You must also be over 18 to apply for SNAP, reside legally in the U.S., and not be a full-time student.

SNAP Rules in Illinois

Illinois also has specific rules you must follow to participate in SNAP.

Firstly, if you’re capable of working, the state expects you to do so. You will need to show proof or documentation for any part of your application. The state expects healthy adults of working age to be employed or actively seeking work before applying for SNAP. 

The EarnFare and SNAP Employment & Training Job Placement programs are two options you may participate in.

Second, Illinois requires SNAP participants to report any changes in their situation. Eligibility is also reviewed from time to time to ensure this is done. A change in your household number, expenses, or income, must be reported to your DHS office as soon as possible.

3.    Find Out If You’re Eligible

Try out the Illinois SNAP Eligibility Calculator if you meet the requirements above. This will give you a quick snapshot of whether you should apply for SNAP.

In addition to this, you should also check your eligibility based on your income. Below are the maximum monthly gross income amounts allowed to receive SNAP. Notice that there are different maximum incomes for households with or without elderly or disabled members.

Number of People in HouseholdMaximum Monthly Income (Gross)Maximum Monthly Income (60+ and disabled)
6+See chartSee chart
SNAP eligibility is also based on your monthly household income.


Certain people are automatically ineligible for SNAP. These include non-citizens in the country illegally, boarders, strikers, and those living in certain institutions.

4.    Complete Your Application

If you meet the eligibility requirements for SNAP, you’re halfway there! Now it’s time to send in your application officially. The application for SNAP in Illinois is made through the Application for Benefits Eligibility (ABE).

The account you create on ABE will be the same account you can monitor your benefits once you’re signed up. ABE is also used for those seeking health coverage, Cash Assistance, and even Medicaid, so that you might use the platform for more things in the future.

ABE allows you to save your application and return to it later, giving you have plenty of time to get everything together. Use their step-by-step guide with images to walk you through the application process.

After you apply, you will be called in for an interview within two weeks. This is a standard procedure and is done to verify your information.

Tip for Completing Your Application

  • Set aside about 35-45 minutes to complete your application.
  • Include as much information as possible.
  • You are not required to submit a Social Security number with your application but doing so can speed up the process.
  • Double-check that your contact information – especially your phone number – is correct. Without it, you won’t be able to schedule the interview!
  • You can track the status of your application under the “Manage My Case” section of ABE.

5.    Using Your Illinois Link Card

Once you’ve been approved for SNAP in Illinois, you can utilize your Illinois Link Card. Before using the card, you must choose a PIN. You’ll need to enter this PIN anytime you purchase food with the Link Card, so keep both the PIN and the card safe.

You can use your Link Card at over 9,000 retailers in the state. Most will have a sign near the register that reads “Illinois Link accepted here.” If traveling out of state, look for a display that says the store accepts “Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards.”

Link Card benefits will expire if you do not purchase for one full year. You can keep track of your Link Card online. You’ll need your Social Security number, date of birth, and the 16- or 19-digit number printed on your card to create your account.

On this site, you can:

  • Check your balance
  • Change your address
  • Report a lost or stolen card and order a replacement
  • Choose or change your PIN
  • Check recent purchases
  • Report a problem with a purchase

Purchasing Food with Your Link Card

You can purchase most fresh food items with your Link Card. This includes:

  • Poultry, fish, meat, and dairy
  • Bread
  • Cereals
  • Juice

You cannot purchase:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Nonfood household items
  • Medicine or vitamins
  • Hot and prepared foods

To purchase food with your link card, use it the same as a debit card. Swipe it through the card machine, enter your PIN, and complete your purchase. If you purchase more than your card balance or include items not approved by SNAP, you will have to pay the remaining balance separately through cash or another card.

Summing Up

More than 10% of people in Illinois live under the poverty line, and even more have trouble paying for healthy groceries every week. If you meet the requirements for SNAP in Illinois, you could receive monthly assistance to help pay for your groceries.

To apply, use the online ABE system. You can fill in all required information and submit your application in as little as 35 minutes. Then, after about two weeks, you’ll be called in for an interview. If all goes well, you’ll then receive your SNAP benefits as soon as that same month!

Save Money on Your Wireless Phone Service

Did you know that if you qualify for government benefit programs like SNAP, you also qualify for Lifeline or the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)? Both Lifeline and ACP are government-managed programs that help low-income consumers receive free or deeply discounted communication services.

Click here to find out more and apply for this valuable benefit.